Romance doesn’t necessarily equal expensive. Even last-minute, it’s possible to find a Valentine’s Day break on the cheap – even in Europe.
Here’s our pick of the best budget deals.
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Easy does it in Edinburgh
EasyHotel – which, befitting a low-cost airline’s sister brand, charges extra for such things as TV channels (£5/day) – is offering Valentine’s Day upgrades. For £12, couples in its simple rooms get a box of chocolates and a late 1pm check-out in the name of an unhurried morning’s exercise. Aim for the outpost in Edinburgh’s elegant New Town: it’s within strolling distance of Waverley train station, the cobbled Royal Mile and famous fortress. Have brunch – ideally a grilled-cheese sandwich – in Cairngorm Coffee’s cosy cafe nearby after first walking up Calton Hill for a romantic city vista.
Small doubles from £49 room-only, excluding upgrade, easyhotel.com
Steaks and cocktails in Cardiff
Bedrooms at Hotel Indigo Cardiff sure are fun: you might enjoy ketchup-hued featured walls, or prints of old newspaper cuttings about the docks along with bathrooms starring rainfall showers and cheerily multi-coloured tiles. A cwtch (lounge) downstairs has lots of art in the boutique style, but the headline act’s above: a top-floor Marco Pierre White steakhouse serving delectable sirloins. Being on pedestrianised Queen Street puts you close to Victorian arcades, huge Bute Park and medieval Cardiff Castle, and ideally placed to explore the Welsh capital’s thriving cocktail scene. Champagne sours at Lab22 are especially recommended.
Doubles from £99 a night room-only on Valentine’s Day, ihg.com
Light festival in Norwich
In Norfolk, Valentine’s Eve was once a bigger deal than Christmas, with guests said to be delivered – and often hidden – by the mischievous figure of Jack Valentine. That traditional informs this year’s new Love Light Norwich festival in the county’s hub, one promising fire shows, food stalls, street theatre and cathedral projections on walking trails (13-15 February). Those who are truly illuminated will also recognise a bargain available at the city-centre Travelodge, where overnight prices include a king-sized bed and unlimited breakfast buffet. Work off those croissants by ambling around the Lanes’ many quirky boutiques.
Doubles from £79 B&B, including wi-fi, travelodge.co.uk
A new hotel in Manchester
Manchester’s trendiest new residence opens on Valentine’s Day, with the opening rates unusually low. Complete with a determined focus on accessibility, Hotel Brooklyn pairs a NYC loft vibe with lots of industrial chic fittings – recovered brick, monochrome tiles, clumps of concrete – while a gramophone in its fire-heated snug spins songs from Manchester’s music scene. The on-site diner serves fish-finger sandwiches and smoked-beef hot dogs, or you could scoff wagyu dumplings under a cherry-blossom tree at close-by Tattu. Tickets are also still available for a special candlelight piano recital of classical music at Manchester Cathedral (£21).
Doubles from £98 room-only, hotelbrooklyn.co.uk
Palazzos, pizza and privacy in Venice
A floating city? Venice was always destined to be romantic, especially once one factors in the chugging vaporetti, teetering pink palazzos and Murano-glass souvenirs. It’s also a little emptier in winter, a time when stark light enables wonderful photographs. For the perfect weekend, find a reasonably priced trattoria serving homemade pizza – such as Dai Tosi – and inspect paintings of canoodling couples at Ca’ Rezzonico, a Grand Canal gallery. Bargain hotel-wise, though principally a hostel, Generator Venice has private, wood-beamed bedrooms alongside marble floors and buzzy bar-restaurant. A winter sale is discounting two-night stays by 20 per cent.
Deluxe rooms from £94 room-only, staygenerator.com. Return flights from London from £173
Warm up in Barcelona
None of chic&basic’s affordable Barcelona boutiques are better-located than Lemon, thanks to the hotel’s position off focal Placa Catalunya. Nor are any of them yellower: the fruity theme extends to lemon-hued swings and tropical wallpaper in rooms with birdcage lights. There might even be an unfamiliar yellow thing in the sky, too, what with daytime temperatures a good bet to push 20C. Lovers can hire e-scooters to explore or venture to Mosquito, whose superior “Asian tapas” – from shrimp dumplings to kimchi and plates of crispy duck; three for about £10 – and low-lit corners are perfect for parsimonious partners.
Doubles from £91 room-only, chicandbasiclemonhotel.com. Return flights from London from £157
Go rummaging in Paris
The world’s largest flea market, Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, is a 1,700-merchant sprawl of warehouses and alleys north of central Paris which splits into 14 sections. Of those, Marche Dauphine is the one for anyone seeking prints to decorate a new home, or vintage records to play at parties. Gawp at the spectacle from under a heater on Ma Cocotte’s large upstairs terrace afterwards, and then retreat to the Mob Hotel: a place whose utopian ethos explains its farm-to-table restaurant, fair-trade fashion school, philosophy lectures and yoga classes. Paramours are directed to evening film screenings in the cinema, while rooms have red-velvet bedheads.
Doubles from £80, B&B, mobhotel.com/paris. Return trains from London from £184
Hot and steamy in Berlin
Craving a weekend full of frolicking? There’s an easy way to set the sultry tone at Berlin’s burlesque-inspired Provocateur Hotel. Each of its 58 chambers comes with the option of a Provocateur Mode: flick a bedside switch and voila: the lights will dim, seductive music will be piped out and explicit video art will appear on walls. Sorted. Once you’ve exhausted the Kama Sutra, there’s French-Chinese food elsewhere in the hotel, or you could choose from Kurfurstendamm’s many cafes and bars. That’s in west Berlin, but the decadent, anything-goes clubs of east Berlin are easily accessed via with a nearby U-Bahn railway station.
Doubles from £92 room-only, provocateur-hotel.com. Return flights from London from £167